On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to one (1) ounce of dried marijuana or eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish).
The law stems from voter passage, in November 2016, of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalized recreational marijuana use and possession in California.
The new law does not change regulations regarding medical marijuana, which has been legal in California since 1996.
HS 11357 regulations surrounding possession of marijuana
Marijuana legalization in California does not mean that you can never be penalized under state law for possessing marijuana or concentrated cannabis. Health and Safety Code 11357 HS, California’s marijuana possession law, does still make it a crime to:
- Possess more than 28.5 grams (approximately one ounce) of marijuana or more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis;
- Possess marijuana or concentrated cannabis if you are under 21 years of age, except in accordance with California’s medical marijuana laws; or
- Possess marijuana on the grounds of a K-12 school while the school is in session.
The following table summarizes the current laws and penalties regarding marijuana possession in California:
|HS 11357 marijuana possession offense||Type of offense||Penalty|
|Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis by people under 21||Infraction||Drug counseling and community service (defendants under 18); fine of up to $100 (defendants 18 and over)|
|Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (defendants 18 and over)||Misdemeanor||Up to 6 months in county jail; up to $500 fine|
|Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than 8 grams of concentrated cannabis (defendants under 18)||Infraction||Drug counseling and community service|
|Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis on the grounds of a K-12 school (defendants 18 and over)||Misdemeanor||Up to $250 fine for first offense|
|Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis on the grounds of a K-12 school (defendants under 18)||Infraction||Drug counseling and community service|
If you are charged with a marijuana possession crime under California Health and Safety Code 11357 HS, there are legal defenses that can help you fight the charges. Some of the most common are:
- You didn’t possess any marijuana.
- The weed wasn’t yours.
- You didn’t know the pot was there.
- The marijuana was discovered during an illegal search.
Our California marijuana attorneys can help
Did the police charge you with a possession of marijuana offense? You came to the right place for help and for answers.
In this article, our California marijuana attorneys1 provided detailed answers to the most frequently asked questions about Health and Safety Code 11357 HS, California’s marijuana laws for possession:
- 1. Penalties for Marijuana Possession Crimes after Prop 64 (Health and Safety Code 11357 HS)
- 2. How Do I Fight A California Health and Safety 11357 HS Charge?
If, after reading this article, you would like more information about California marijuana laws, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
The 2016 voter initiative Proposition 64 made it legal for adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal, recreational use.2
However, Proposition 64 does not mean that no one will face criminal charges or fines for simple marijuana possession. The following are still prohibited by HS 11357:
Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana
Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana (slightly over one ounce) or more than eight (8) grams of concentrated cannabis (hashish) is prohibited under California’s marijuana legalization law.3
Simple possession of excessive amounts of marijuana is a California misdemeanor for adult defendants. The potential penalties are:
- Six (6) months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500).4
However, defendants under the age of eighteen (18) who possess more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, or more than eight grams of concentrated cannabis, will only be charged with a California infraction and required to attend drug counseling and/or perform community service.5
Possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis by a minor
It is also illegal under HS 11357 for people under the age of twenty-one (21) to possess any amount of marijuana or concentrated cannabis other than in accordance with California’s medical marijuana laws.6
Under Proposition 64, the penalties for people under 21 who possess marijuana or hashish are:
- A fine of up to one hundred dollars ($100), for people 18 and over;
- For first offenders who are under 18, four (4) hours of drug education or counseling and up to ten (10) hours of community service; and
- For offenders who are under 18 with a prior conviction, six (6) hours of drug education or counseling and up to twenty (20) hours of community service.7
Possession of marijuana on the grounds of a school
The last form of marijuana possession that remains prohibited even after the passage of Proposition 64 is possession of marijuana or concentrated cannabis is on the grounds of or inside a K-12 school while the school is open during school hours or for after-school programs.
Pot possession at a school is a misdemeanor for adults. The penalty for a first offense is a fine of up to two hundred fifty dollars ($250). For minors under 18, marijuana possession on school grounds is an infraction punishable by community service and drug treatment.
In addition, it’s important to remember that Prop 64 did not mean the end of all prosecutions for marijuana-related offenses in California. Possession and use of marijuana are now legal, and so is the sale of marijuana–but only by businesses licensed by state and local governments. Any participation in a “black market” for unregulated marijuana could lead to charges for:
- Health and Safety Code 11359 HS California’s law against possessing marijuana for sales,
- Health and Safety Code 11358 HS California’s law against cultivating marijuana, or
- Health and Safety Code 11360 HS California’s law against selling or transporting marijuana.
Additionally, possession of marijuana is still a crime under federal law. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rescinded the Obama-era’s official “hands off” policy regarding federal prosecution of those who comply with state marijuana laws. Under the new policy, federal prosecutors have to discretion to go after people under federal marijuana laws as they see fit.
While federal prosecutors in California have not indicated any intention of going after people who possess marijuana within state legal limits, prosecution is still a risk for people who violate other federal laws, including transportation of marijuana across state lines.
Note that the L.A. County D.A.’s office generally does not prosecute HS 11357 cases.8
According to Oakland marijuana crimes lawyer Reve Bautista9:
“Prop 64 does not mean that no one will be charged with marijuana possession crimes in California going forward. In fact, there is a chance that the passage of Proposition 64 will lead to police and district attorneys to work especially hard to prosecute violations of HS 11357. People who possess more than an ounce of pot, and minors who possess any cannabis products, will still have to worry about the hassles and consequences of a marijuana possession charge.”
Common legal defenses to charges of illegal marijuana possession in California include:
You didn’t possess the marijuana
If you didn’t possess marijuana, you aren’t guilty of this crime. This might be the case if, for example, law enforcement mistook someone else’s pot for your own. Clearly, this defense works best when you are not in physical control of the drug. But even then, you could still potentially claim
- the marijuana belonged to a friend whose clothes, bag, etc. you were borrowing, or
- someone slipped the pot into your pocket, etc. to avoid his/her own criminal liability.
You didn’t know you possessed the marijuana
Similar to the above, even if you did physically possess a bag of marijuana…but were not aware you were doing so…you haven’t violated the law. Possession of marijuana is not enough by itself to sustain a conviction. If the prosecutor can’t additionally prove that you knew you possessed the drug, then you are entitled to an acquittal.
Referring back to an earlier example, if a friend leaves his pot in your car without your knowledge, you are not guilty of this offense.
The marijuana was discovered during an illegal search and seizure
Often times, marijuana-related offenses…and for that matter, most California drug crimes…trigger illegal search and seizure issues. For example, police routinely violate California’s search and seizure laws when they seize drugs by
- executing a search without a valid California search warrant,
- searching a location that is beyond the scope of a valid warrant, and/or
- initiating an illegal stop.
When any of these issues arise, your California marijuana attorney will likely file a Penal Code 1538.5 PC motion to suppress evidence which, if successful, could result in a dismissal…or at the very least…a significant reduction of your charge(s).
Call us for help…
If you or loved one is charged with Health & Safety Code 11357 HS possession of marijuana and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
See our related articles on driving under the influence of marijuana, possession with intent to sell marijuana (HS 11359), drug paraphernalia (HS 11364), and possession of an open container of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle (VC 23222b). Also see our article on use of cannabis under medical marijuana laws, including information about caregivers, marijuana dispensaries, and The Compassionate Use Act.
Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada’s possession of marijuana laws. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.10
- Our California marijuana attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- Health and Safety Code section 11357 HS California’s law on possession of marijuana for personal use [as amended by Proposition 64]. Note that marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
- Same; LADA Special Directive 20-07.
- Oakland marijuana crimes lawyer Reve Bautista spent over 20 years as a prosecutor with the Contra Costa District Attorney and the San Francisco District Attorney. As a result, she is well-known at every courthouse in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like other drug crimes defense attorneys with Shouse Law Group, she has mastered the ins and outs of California marijuana policy in the wake of recreational marijuana legalization.
- Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada’s marijuana laws. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.